Author's Comment: My parents were horrified when I told them I wanted to be an author. I was fifteen, in my last year of high school. My family pleaded with me to forget literature and do something sensible, such as find some sort of useful work. I had no idea how to find work, useful or otherwise. In fact, I had no idea how to become an author. If reading offered any preparation for writing there were grounds for hope. I had been reading as long as I could remember. Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain, and so many others were my dearest friends and greatest teachers. I loved all the world s mythologies; King Arthur was one of my heroes; I played with a trash can lid for a knightly shield and my uncle's cane for the sword Excalibur. But I was afraid that not even Merlin the enchanter could transform me into a writer.